Education Act 2011 – Secretary of State gets wider powers to force academy conversions

The Education Act 2011 received royal assent on 15 November 2011. Section 44 greatly widens the range of circumstances in which the Secretary of State can direct that a maintained school is ‘discontinued’, and thus is replaced by an academy.

Previously, the Secretary of State could only do that in the case of a school ‘requiring special measures’ (within the meaning of section 62 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006).

Now he can do it in relation to any school which is ‘eligible for intervention’ (other than where that arises from a ‘pay and conditions warning’ under section 60A of that Act).

Schools are ‘eligible for intervention’ (other than for a pay and conditions warning) under the following provisions of the 2006 Act:

  • section 60 (warning notice by local education authority),
  • section 61 (school requiring significant improvement), and
  • section 62 (school requiring special measures)

I do not know how many more schools that brings within the ambit of the Secretary of State’s powers to override local action, but it plainly greatly increases his ability to force conversions.

I am told that Ministers have been saying that the Secretary of State does not have the power to force maintained schools to become academies. Obviously, as above, that does not paint a complete picture. Although he cannot generally force the conversion, he has complete power in relation to schools within his newly widened reach of schools which are ‘eligible for intervention’

This change is the first provision of the 2011Act to be brought into force.

Section 56 of the Education Act 2011 (when it is brought into force) will allow for the consultation (which must take place before setting up a new academy) to be undertaken by whoevever it is that the Secretary of State intends to enter into the funding agreement with. In other words, the Secretary of State can identify some new third party (person or organisation)  to step in (thus sidelining the former governing body, etc).

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